According to very early sources, there has been a Christian church presence here in Oram since the time of St Patrick. Some of the local townland names might indicate a Welsh or Patrician influence. By the 7th century, the influence of the tradition of St Comcille played a part in shaping the local church and a monastery was established at Mullandoy. Associated with this monastic settlement was St Maeldoid, one of the local rulers, the Hanratty’s. While the monastery did not exist much beyond the 10th century, the parish of Muckno was composed of the monastic or termon lands of the Hanratty’s until the end of gaelic rule in 1603. During this time there probably continued to be a church presence in the area we today call Oram.
Up until the early 1800s, as a result of the Penal laws at the time, Catholics in and around Oram celebrated the Eucharist at Mass huts (bothóga) and Mass rocks in the townlands of Tullynageer and Oram. There are, however, early records of a chapel in Oram dating back to the late 1770’s. This chapel served as the parish church until the original church St. Mary’s, in Castleblayney was built in 1805.
Other records, including The Ordnance Survey Memoirs of South Ulster (1835), note a church building in Oram as ‘capable of accommodating five hundred persons at worship’…. ‘a plain stone building surrounded by a small enclosure with a few fir trees.’ In 1856 the Dundalk Democrat records the administration of The Sacrament of Confirmation to upwards on six hundred in the chapel in Oram while the present church of St. Mary’s in Castleblayney was being built.
The original church building in Oram was rectangular in shape but was redesigned after the completion of the present St Mary’s church in November 1861. This new design included the addition of two aisles. The Bishop of Clogher, Dr James Donnelly (bishop 1865-1893), visited Oram to inspect these works on 5th October 1866, following Confirmation in Castleblayney on the previous day. The PP of Muckno at this time was Canon Peter Birmingham. He was later the PP of Carrickmacross.
On the feast of All Saints, Sunday 1st November, 1868, St Patrick’s Church, Oram was officially dedicated to St. Patrick and All Saints and the new graveyard was also consecrated. In his journal, Bishop Donnelly recorded the dedication of the church itself at 10.00 a.m followed by the dedication of the graveyard at 11.00 am. He notes “ High Mass by Rev Bernard Duffy at 12 Noon, that the bishop was robed Coram Pontifice; in cope and mitre; there was ‘good sermon’ by Fortesque.”
Fr. Fortesque was a Jesuit priest and a renowned and eloquent much sought after preacher at this time. Fr Bernard Duffy was a curate in Muckno. There were a number of Protestants present and they contributed generously to the collection. The bishop gave £7. The bishop recorded that there were also some prominent lay people present at the dinner and celebrations afterwards.
Over the following years and decades, St Patrick’s Church continued to be the community’s focal point for liturgical and spiritual growth, for sacraments, personal devotions and rituals and it was from here that many social and political reform campaigns of the era had their origins and support.
In 1929 Canon Andrew J Maguire PP arranged for alterations, repairs and renovations at St Patrick’s Oram and St. Mary’s Castleblayney. The plans were designed by JF McGahan, Architects, Dundalk and the aim of the work was to redesign the sanctuary space in both churches in addition to providing a permanent electricity supply in St Mary’s. Many fundraising events occurred over the period 1931-36 to offset the debts associated with the works. The original altar from St Mary’s was relocated to St. Patrick’s Oram. At the end of the renovation works in both churches a special parish celebration and High Mass was held on Sunday 13th December, 1936.
By late 1957 the rural electrification scheme had been extended to the Oram area and to the church. Records state the cost of electrifying the church in Oram amounted to £258.
In 1974, and under the direction of Canon J Tomany, (PP 1973- 1983), further re ordering of the sanctuary in St Patrick’s Oram was undertaken by O’Hagan Bros, Eskra. This work involved removing part of the altar rails and providing a wooden ambo for the proclamation of the Word of God. These changes were minor ones to accommodate the liturgical changes that followed the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).
In 1997, a grotto in honour of Our Lady was erected by the local community. The electricity wiring of the church was renewed in 2008 and in early 2017 phase I of a structural renewal of the building was undertaken.
Today, we come together as a Christian community, to recall the dedication of our church some one hundred and fifty years ago, to remember in prayer and to give thanks to God for all those who have, in any way, been associated with improving, enhancing and enriching both spiritually and physically this, the focal point, in our Christian community of Oram. Today, as the People of God in this place, we renew our commitment to Jesus Christ and to each other. We pray that through the intercession of Mary our Mother and Mother of the Church, St Patrick, St Columcille, St Maeldoid and all the saints, we and future generations of the people of Oram and the Parish of Muckno will be sustained and strengthened in holiness.
– Written by Paula Coleman & Gary Carville